The most successful construction businesses generally have strong safety programs in place. In the case of COVID-19 however, the hands-on nature of construction work often makes it difficult to implement many of the most common safeguards.
Recognizing this challenge, numerous government agencies, trade groups, and labor organizations have published lengthy coronavirus guidelines specifically for construction businesses. Unfortunately the volume of available material can be overwhelming. To provide some structure, it helps to first sort information into a few broad categories. Following is a partial list of recognized COVID-19 safety practices from various sources, organized into four general areas of concern:
1. Employee Screening and Hygiene
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick and to use proper respiratory etiquette, such as covering coughs and sneezes.
- Screen workers for fever using non-contact thermometers at the beginning of shifts and if anyone becomes ill on the job.
- Put workers diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who had close contact with infected workers on sick leave. Notify local health authorities and disinfect the area where the sick person worked.
- Provide employees with accurate information about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, how it spreads, and risk of exposure.
- Encourage workers to wear masks in addition to required personal protective equipment.
2. Jobsite Cleaning and Sanitation
- If workers do not have immediate access to soap and water for handwashing, provide alcohol-based hand wipes with at least 60% alcohol.
- Limit tool sharing. If tools or equipment must be shared, instruct workers to use alcohol-based wipes to clean tools before and after use.
- Institute a rigorous housekeeping program to reduce dust levels.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as shared tools, vehicles and other equipment, handrails, ladders, doorknobs, and portable toilets. Disinfect at the beginning and end of every shift, as well as periodically throughout the day.
- Use approved cleaning chemicals from EPA List N or cleaners that have label claims against the coronavirus.
3. Project and Jobsite Management
- Direct employees, contractors, and visitors to increase personal space to at least six feet, where possible. Ensure all workers maintain social distancing inside work trailers.
- Keep in-person meetings (including toolbox talks and safety meetings) as short as possible, limit the number in attendance, and use social distancing practices.
- Where feasible, use closed doors and walls as physical barriers to separate workers. Consider erecting plastic sheeting barriers if workers need to occupy enclosed and confined areas simultaneously.
- Limit outside visitors to jobsites. If possible, screen visitors in advance for COVID-19 symptoms.
- Maintain social distancing when visiting lunch trucks or other site vendors.
- Stagger work schedules, coordinate subcontractor scheduling, and schedule deliveries of materials and equipment to reduce the total number of people on site at any time. Delivery personnel should remain in vehicles when possible.
- Identify choke points where workers must stand together such as hallways, break areas, and hoists and elevators. Implement policies to maintain social distancing at these points.
- Designate a site-specific COVID-19 officer at every job site, and conduct a job hazard analysis to identify and mitigate those work activities that require close contact between workers.
4. Office and Administrative Procedures
- Arrange for administrative and office staff to work from home. If remote work is not possible, rearrange workstations to maintain at least six feet of distance between workers, and install shields or plexiglass barriers if necessary.
- Rearrange break area furnishings to add visual social distancing marks. Disinfect break or lunchroom areas frequently and identify alternative areas to accommodate overflow volume.
- Avoid in-person meetings and trainings when possible. If you must meet in-person, spread out to a distance of six feet or more between attendees.
There is extensive guidance available on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and various state and local health agency websites. Please contact our team or your Mueller Prost advisor for more information on COVID-19 safety practices.